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Originally published Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 6:05 AM

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June crime fiction: chilling tales by Seattle-area authors

New in crime fiction: a crop of new novels by Seattle-area authors Jennifer Murphy, Ingrid Thoft, Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris, and fan honors for crime writers Mike Lawson and Thoft.


Special to The Seattle Times

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It’s hardly news that the Northwest is chock-full of great mystery and crime writers, but it’s worth repeating. Here are some recent additions:

“I Love You More” (Doubleday, 304 pp., $24.95) is a chilling and beautifully written debut from Seattleite Jennifer Murphy.

Someone fatally shot a charismatic lawyer, Oliver Lane, at the summerhouse he shared with his wife, Diana, and their whimsically named daughter Picasso. Turns out that Oliver had two other wives, and all three had reason to kill him.

The women claim they didn’t know about each other until the police began investigating, but Picasso, a precocious adolescent, saw them together before the crime.

Picasso is the main narrator, though the wives sometimes chime in (as one voice, a device that works surprisingly well). Another point of view is that of Kyle Kennedy, a police detective who is drawn to Diana.

Murphy’s plot superficially resembles that of another recent book, Alice LaPlante’s “A Circle of Wives.” Both center on the murder of a charismatic man with three highly compartmentalized lives and wives.

But there the resemblance ends. Murphy has her own strong, self-assured voice and a knack for keeping us unsettled and off-kilter.

Jennifer Murphy will appear at 7 p.m. June 25 at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park (206-366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com), and noon June 28 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St. (587-5737, seattlemystery.com).

Seattleite Ingrid Thoft had her own strong debut last year with “Loyalty,” which introduced private detective Fina Ludlow. The gumshoe returns in “Identity” (Putnam, 464 pp., $26.95).

Smart, funny and BS-averse Fina dropped out of law school. Instead she investigates for her father, a prominent Boston attorney, and tangles with the rest of her large, overachieving family.

Her new case touches on thorny family relationships too. An abrasive community activist is suing the sperm bank that provided the material for creating her teenage daughter Rosie. She insists that the fertility clinic reveal the donor’s identity.

On her own, Fina tracks him down: Hank Reardon, a zillionaire whose contributions, made in his college years, resulted in several children besides Rosie. But do Reardon’s cryo-kids really need to know? And are they entitled to anything in his will?

In short order, Reardon offers a settlement, someone beats him to death, and Reardon’s son by his first marriage hires Fina to find the killer. There are plenty of suspects, including Reardon’s first and second wives and an unhappy business partner.

Ingrid Thoft will sign copies of “Identity” at noon July 2 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St. (206-587-5737, seattlemystery.com).

Seattle-area true-crime writers Gregg Olsenand Rebecca Morrisoften collaborate, their latest being “If I Can’t Have You” (St. Martin’s, 336 pp., $26.99). It’s an absorbing and deeply researched look at the highly publicized 2009 disappearance of Susan Powell and the subsequent deaths of her husband Josh and their sons.

The outcome is never in doubt — including Josh’s move to the Tacoma area and the arson fire that killed him and the boys in a murder-suicide. In a bizarre offshoot of the case, the police investigation resulted in Josh’s father’s conviction for child pornography.

Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris will appear at 7 p.m. Monday,June 9 at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park. Free (206-366-3333; thirdplacebooks.com).

And a final note: Friends of Mystery, an Oregon-based fan group, has honored Mike Lawsonand Ingrid Thoft for books published in 2013. Seattleite Lawson’s “House Odds” snagged Best Novel, while Thoft’s “Loyalty” took Best First Novel.

Adam Woog’s column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.



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